Rita Gravina and Catherine Pfaff

Recipients of the 2016 Governor General's History Award for Excellence in Teaching

November 28, 2016
Canada's History speaks to Rita Gravina and Catherine Pfaff about their award-winning classroom project and teaching Canadian history.

The Bishop Strachan School, Toronto (Ontario)

The students of teacher Rita Gravina and Teacher-Archivist Catherine Pfaff delve into the many unsung stories of women who served their country during the First World War. As part of the HerStory project, their Grade 12 students are responsible for creating video narratives on the war experiences of former Bishop Strachan School students. Their research subjects include women such as Mary Plummer, who organized the distribution of care packages to forces through the Canadian Field Comforts Commission, Lena Ashwell, who pioneered theatrical entertainment for the troops, and Ainslie St. Clair Dagg, a young nurse who died of Spanish influenza shortly after the end of the war. In order to get to know these women, students analyze primary documents from their school’s Museum and Archives, historic newspapers, photographs, and war service records from Library and Archives Canada. They also examine secondary sources, discuss their findings with peers, summarize their research, and finally write their scripts and produce their videos. The process offers students the opportunity to explore gendered perspectives on war and the impact of women on the War effort on a national and global scale.